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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Warning of farmed salmon 'threat'
Fish farm
The report warns of harm to wild stocks from fish farms
Escapes from fish farms constitute a "major threat" to the wild fish population, according to government research.

The report warns that if just 1% of the farmed population escape each year it is enough to overwhelm wild stocks.

The government-commissioned study comes two weeks after an international aquaculture conference in Edinburgh heard similar warnings.

The latest report will be presented to the Scottish Parliament's transport and environment committee, which is conducting a review of the aquaculture industry.


Escapes from salmon farms, therefore, constitute a major threat to wild populations

Government report
The study looked at a series of issues, including the effect of nutrients on fish farms on the sea bed, the chemicals used in the industry and the impact of disease.

One the issue of farm escapes, it said: "Escapees from fish farms may interbreed with wild population resulting in losses of genetic variability, including loss of naturally selected adaptations, thus leading to reduced fitness and performance.

"Non-local genes have been introduced into wild salmonid populations for over a century, as a consequence of restocking programmes intended to increase population sizes.

"However, the effect of these programmes is probably insignificant compared with that caused by farm escapes simply owing to the large scale of escapes in comparison with the wild populations.

Salmon worker
The industry is trying to stop escapes
"Escapes from salmon farms, therefore, constitute a major threat to wild populations."

Friends of the Earth Scotland spokesman Kevin Dunion said the findings are further confirmation of concerns about salmon farming.

He said: "I think the whole point of the study was to look at the current state of research worldwide and the conclusions are that the escapes from salmon farms are affecting wild salmon populations.

"About a million salmon have escaped from farms in Scotland in the past five years.

"This has to be taken into account by the committee. It is an authoritative report."

Brian Simpson, chief executive of industry body Scottish Quality Salmon, said producers were aiming to stop all escapes and there was no cause for concern.

He said: "We warmly welcome most of the conclusions of the report which in essence says that salmon farming is having a minimal impact on the whole marine environment.

'Inconclusive' finding

"It you put that beside the huge positive human impact in terms of 6,500 jobs in the fragile areas of the west coast of Scotland and the islands, not to mention the benefits to the health of our diet and our exports, we've got a huge positive story from this sunrise industry for minimal impact."

Mr Simpson said the report's reference to the major threat posed to wild stocks was an "inconclusive" finding and the study, like others before it, was calling to more work to be done.

Labour MSP, Bristow Muldoon, convener of the parliamentary committee, said the report will be "taken very seriously" both by the committee and the Scottish Executive.

The executive welcomed the report by the Scottish Association for Marine Science and Napier University but is yet to comment on the findings.

A report presented to a conference organised by the Atlantic Salmon Trust in Edinburgh two weeks ago warned that escaped salmon breed with the wild fish and make it less likely that they will return to the rivers to spawn.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Ken Rundle
"To come out with such a clear statement is vey significant"
Brian Simpson, Scottish Quality Salmon
"The target for our members is zero escapes"
Committee convener Bristow Muldoon
"The report did identify escapes as a real threat"
Colin Wight reports
"Farmed salmon is claimed to be part of the problem."
See also:

16 Jul 02 | Scotland
30 May 02 | Science/Nature
29 Apr 02 | Wales
08 Mar 02 | Scotland
Internet links:


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